All the programs and activities of the Round Rock Chamber are really focused on one large effort: to grow the economy of Round Rock. We do this not as a benefit to business or even to establish ourselves as an economically competitive city – but so Round Rock is a place where people and families can better their lives through advancing economic opportunity.
This is foundational to all we do. Economic growth leads to greater financial opportunities for the people of this community. In a growing economy the person who has always wanted to start their restaurant or coffee shop can do so. The couple that has dreamed of sending their children to college can earn more to save for it. Someone who’s worked in an industry that wants to move up the ladder can get additional training and education to advance their career. For us, economic development is about giving people a chance to better their own lives and the lives of their families. These things are all more achievable in a growing economy than in a static or contracting economy.
“The rising tide floats all boats”, we say. But in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd and the disproportionate impacts of the coronavirus on communities of color many were rightly asking, “are all boats being lifted? Are some rising faster than others? And, are some being held back?” In an era marked by historically low unemployment and high economic mobility, why do multi-generational limitations on economic advancement persist? And most importantly, why is it that these differences break down along lines of race and ethnicity as well as education and social-economic categories.
Responding to the death of George Floyd, the U.S. Chamber organized a national Equality of Opportunity Initiative in June, which kicked off with a national town hall style summit. I strongly encourage you to review the report and to watch the summit here. The Round Rock Chamber joined thousands of other state and local Chambers, and thousands of businesses in voicing support for this agenda and the Summit. Our Chamber does not advocate in areas of social justice or criminal justice, but we feel it is centrally important for the business community to foster dialogues related to equality of opportunity.
This last Thursday at the Chamber’s September Power Lunch, our community had the opportunity to hear from two experts on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace to help local businesses be mindful about equitable and inclusive practices from hiring, to promoting, to everyday policies. In my experience, most employers want to offer employees a welcoming and supportive environment that values people of diverse backgrounds, but many – particularly small businesses – don’t know where to start. So, our program featured leading experts from Dell Technologies and the U.S. Chamber to explain how to begin.
Nitcelle Emanuels, Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion, at Dell Technologies, and Rick Wade, Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave presentations and answered audience questions. The hour-long session offered attendees more information than I an sufficiently relate here, so I would like to give you a short, tow-point “highlight reel” of takeaways.
First, the business case for the benefits of diversity and inclusion is well studied and well documented. Diverse companies that intentionally foster an environment of inclusion among its employees are shown to be more competitive in their markets and more profitable over time. Companies that value diversity within are more quickly able to identify, and provide services to, new an emerging markets. Furthermore, in a time when competition for talent is often the number one challenge cited by employers, a company that welcomes diverse candidates expands its potential pool of applicants more so than a firm which does not.
The second take away is, don’t wait to get started or try something new. Our speakers were asked to focus on applicable ways a business can implement best practices, knowing that many are inexperienced in these efforts. The majority of questions asked were centered around what an employer (or the Round Rock Chamber) can be doing. Right now, most businesses are focused on serving their clients during the largest national economic downturn since the great depression.
Let’s face it, we applaud Dell for being a leader in this space. But we also recognize that very few companies have the resources to launch such a comprehensive agenda. The message to smaller companies is simply, don’t let that stop you. If this is new to your business start where you are able. Try one new thing. The U.S. Chamber has compiled an extensive agenda to help you get started. This page breaks down individual focus areas into federal, state, local, and private sector led initiatives.
In short, the work of inclusion within a company begins with adopting a spirit to learn about the members of your team and other people. It starts with having conversations. It begins with listening to others. Creating an environment where all can succeed may be difficult, but starting that effort is not. It just begins with talking about it.
The Round Rock Chamber will continue to talk about these issues. We will continue to “wrestle” with the difficulties. We invite you to join us – because it will help everyone in our community.